Various - Bowler Hat and Leather Boots: Personalities Go Pop Art
Given the wearisome daily parade of carefully manipulated press stories and shameless whoring that passes for celebrity these days, it's hard not to be nostalgic for an age when, despite the behind-closed-doors shenanigans, the stars of stage and screen had genuine charisma and oozed a certain cool. In Swinging London of the 1960s, the creative mix that saw movie stars, writers, artists, musicians, models and playwrights all hanging out together, led to all manner of odd projects - including a penchant for making records, some serious, some not-so. This new compilation of 50s and 60s sounds offers a bewildering selection of platters, with everyone from Kenneth Williams and Peter Cook, to Sophia Loren and child star Hayley Mills getting a look in.
What this gets you is a mixed bag of spoken word (Dirk Bogarde and some cocktail lounge easy, John Betjeman doing 'The Arrest of Oscar Wilde); some theatrical numbers from the likes of Norman Wisdom and Anthony Newley, alongside all manner of novelty tunes and WTF? moments, with Orson Welles' 'You Made Me Love You' ranking high in the latter category. There's an obvious variety show element on display - no surprise given many of those featured got their initial break in armed forces entertainment divisions or in regional theatre - and while some selections drift into corny, it's all more entertaining than most 21st century attempts at the format. The tracklisting groups multiple recordings by the same person together, so for the full cool party mix tape effect you'll have to hit shuffle, but with nicely quirky sleevenotes and some attractive period photographs, this is a nice glimpse into the odder recesses of the British recording industry's archives.